|Artwork by Mark Turner|
The 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln is a lynchpin of American history. Once in office, the long simmering feuds between northern and southern states soon boiled over into what would become known as the American Civil War. It was Lincoln, who through his asserted will, personal charisma, and perceptive intelligence, led the Northern Union states to a hard fought victory. 620,000 men died in the Civil War, exceeding the nation's losses of any other American war. Turbulent moments often leave their mark on time and some would say, they make an impression on the fabric of unseen space, the ether of the world between the living and the dead.
Lincoln himself was no stranger to the world of the Paranormal. While running for the office of President, Lincoln was listening to friends discuss the possibilities of Civil War, Lincoln said to them; "Gentlemen, you may be surprised and think it strange, but when the doctor here was describing a war, I distinctly saw myself, in second sight, bearing an important part in that strife."
On the day he won his election for president, exhausted, he sat in his bedroom. Staring in the mirror at the man who was the newly elected president, Lincoln saw in the reflection a vision of two separate and clearly defined faces. The vision faded and then returned. The first face was normal, but the second looked pale, death like. The vision again faded. Lincoln told his wife, Mary Todd, about it. In the following days he tried to make it happen again, to demonstrate it for his wife. Mary Todd did not see it, but she told him what she thought it meant. The first healthy face was his current face, indicating that he would live out his first term in office, but the other faces deathly pale complexion indicated that he would not live to see the end of the second term.
During the war, Lincoln used the telegraph lines like we would use the internet or a fax machine today. He was constantly updated, reading the latest news from his commanders. After one visit to the telegraph office, he read the reports and left, only to come back sometime later in a panic and ordered the operator to send a line out that the Confederates were about to cross the Union lines! The operator asked where he had received this sudden turn of information and Lincoln responded; "My God man, I saw it!"
After the death of Lincoln's 11 year old son William, the Lincolns were devastated by the loss. It was after his son's passing that the Lincoln's began inviting mediums, psychics or spiritualists to the White House. Seances were conducted, and it is believed that they were trying to contact their dead son. Information too is said to have been obtained from the 'other side'. The president would ask for insights and advice on the war. There is also an account of a seance conducted by medium Nettie Colburn Maynard, where a piano levitated and Mr. Lincoln and rail-road lobbyist Colonel Simon Kase climbed onto the piano to keep it down. It moved so much that they had to jump off the piano.
On March 4th 1865, Lincoln began his second term as president, the south was losing the war. By April 9th, Confederate Commander General Robert E Lee surrendered. Soon after, the president recounted a prophetic dream;
About ten days ago, I retired late. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along. It was light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me, but where were all the people who were grieving as if their hearts would break? I was puzzled and alarmed. What could be the meaning of all this? Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, some gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully.
"Who is dead in the White House?", I demanded of one of the soldiers.
"The President", was his answer," He was killed by an assassin."
Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which awoke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since.
- Abraham Lincoln, 1856
A few days later on April 14th, while attending a play with his wife, President Lincoln was shot in the back of the head at point blank range by southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln died the next morning. The war ended but true to the prediction of the two faces in the mirror, Lincoln did not live to see the end of his second term.
Mary Todd Lincoln, distraught over the loss of her husband, held seances to contact him and felt that she had succeeded in reaching his spirit. Years after Lincoln's death train procession and funeral, people still report seeing his funeral train riding on the rails again in April. Lincoln is also said to haunt the White House. During Grant's presidency the Lincoln child, William, who died at the White House was seen. Calvin Coolidge's wife Grace is said to be first to encounter President Lincoln's ghost. She saw him standing at the window of the oval office with his hands clasped behind his back gazing out over the Potomac. She saw him numerous times after that. Franklin Roosevelt's valet, Cesar Carrera, ran out of the White House screaming after seeing Abe's ghost. Assistant to Elanor Roosevelt, Mary Eben, saw his ghost sitting on his bed in the Lincoln bedroom, pulling off his boots. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was a guest at the White House and in the middle of the night, heard a knock on her bedroom door. She went to the door and opened it, and saw Lincoln fully dressed with top hat and beard. The Queen fainted, and when she regained her senses, he was gone. British Prime minister Winston Churchill was staying at the White House's Lincoln Bedroom and had disrobed for his bath when he walked into the bedroom to see Lincoln leaning on the fireplace mantle. They looked at each other for a moment. Possibly embarrassed, Lincoln faded from view. Allegedly, Churchill refused to sleep in White House after that. Gerald Ford's daughter saw his ghost in the 1980's, and Reagan's Daughter, Maureen and her husband saw the ghost near the fireplace.
Ghosts of the Civil War
Lives cut short in their prime are sometimes thought to stay behind and relive their past. Some call it residual energy, more like a recording playing back than the actual living spirit of a human form, but whatever they are, war ghosts are as old as wars themselves.
After looking over most of the big Civil War battles and their ghosts, most of them have a common grisly theme. When soldiers were wounded in those days, anesthesia was practically nonexistent and when a limb needed to be amputated, something to bite on was about all the patient was offered. After every battle there were makeshift hospitals set up in the largest place possible, church's, hotels, or other large meeting rooms where the wounded were treated and the arms and legs were sawed off and tossed out the window, piled high to the second story window while the patient looked on. From battlefields like Antietam and Gettysburg come ghost sounds of the screams and cries of these poor boys, now ghosts, who probably died from loss of blood, shock or gangrene even after their limbs were sawed from their bodies. The sounds of rifle and cannon fire and the smell of gun powder are still detected on some nights. Mystery lights of the soldier's campfires are seen at nearly every battlefield too. Houses still standing from the days of the war near these former fields of hell tell many tales of soldiers and civilians killed by stray bullets that haunt their homes.
I camped near the battle fields of Antietam, and it was a rather unsettling experience. I was glad we had brought sleeping pills. I have a link below about our adventure and some photos of orbs taken that night. Ghosts, or camera anomalies, there was something watching us from the woods, and it felt like above us too.
Our Visit to Antietam . . .
Ghosts of Harper's Ferry, Ghosts of Antietam
Sources and links of interest . . .
SÉANCES IN THE WHITE HOUSE? Abraham Lincoln & The Supernatural by Tom Taylor
White House Ghosts from Haunted Places.com
Ghosts in Gettysburg and Antietam